The Gospel According to St. Matthew
(Il vangelo secondo Matteo)
Some of the most intriguing artistic tributes to faith and religion come from nonbelievers. A Man For All Seasons, the great drama of the life and martyrdom of St. Thomas More, was written for the stage and screen by the non-Christian Robert Bolt. The story of The Song of Bernadette, the Marian visionary of Lourdes, was first written as a historical novel by a Jewish author, Franz Werfel. And Mark Twain’s favorite work among all his books was his Joan of Arc.
Pier Paolo Pasolini was an atheist, indeed a Marxist, and The Gospel According to Matthew is routinely interpreted as a proto-Marxist allegory. Yet Pasolini was perhaps first of all a poet, and the concepts of the sacred and the divine, far from repelling him as so much religious superstition, held for him a powerful appeal. In 1962 he came to Assisi in response to Pope John XXIII’s call for dialogue with non-Christian artists. While there, he read through a book of the Gospels “from beginning to end, like a novel,” later proclaiming the story of Jesus “the most exalting thing one can read.”
- Steven D. Greydanus